Thursday, November 03, 2005

Notice: Registration now required to comment.

I have decided to require a registration with Blogger to comment, because I have been inundated with spam comments and I spent the last 20 minutes deleting them from recent posts. I know this won't get rid of all of them, because there are some spamming bastards who are registered with Blogger, but that's only been maybe 10 percent of the spam. So, from now on if you see that there are comments, they may be worth reading!

This also coincides with my efforts to create game preview posts instead of game review posts. You all watch the games, otherwise you wouldn't be coming here. So I figured I wasn't really doing anyone any service by saying what had already happened. Now I'm focusing on the previews, such as my Wizards season-opener preview that will allow me to do things like live-blog the games and allow you guys to comment as the game goes on. Also, it will allow me to post my post-game thoughts in the comments section as opposed to in a new post. Hence the need for spam-less comment sections.

Here's hoping this goes well. I am also working on changing the background to make it a little more personalized than the standard Blogger template I've got up now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

MLB Not So Fun: Matt Lawton tested positive for steroids.

ESPN link.

The news came out about a week ago that a starting outfielder on a playoff team tested positive for steroids, which meant it was time for the speculation game. Fortunately for us Yankee-haters, it was a Yankee. Unfortunately, it was a rent-a-player who didn't do anything good in his stint there.

Well, hopefully that settles any argument about whether or not the O's should sign him. That doesn't have a whole lot of effect on what I said the Orioles should do earlier, just solidifies my "go for Reggie Sanders" case.

I can only imagine that this will destroy Lawton's free agent value. He was figuring to make about $5 million a year, probably on a one-year deal somewhere. Who knows where that number will be now.

NBA: Wizards Season Preview

If you believe about a third of the experts who contributed to's season preview, you'd think the loss of Larry Hughes was like the Lakers losing Shaq.

OK, not quite... But they do seem to think it was enough of a loss to knock the Wizards from a second-round playoff team to a lottery pick in the 2006 entry draft. No one on ESPN's panel predicts the Wizards to improve on their fifth-place finish.

I'm not sure they'll improve, but I certainly don't think they're any worse than they were last year. Sure, they lost a legit ball thief in Hughes, but they also unloaded crybaby Kwame Brown and added Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels.

Hughes was dangerous on defense and on offense, but too often that danger was to his own team. Defensively, he cut down passing lanes and was a solid stopper when he focused on the man and not the ball, but too often he would go for the big steal, come up empty and find himself 15 feet from the man he was supposed to be defending. Offensively, Larry needed the ball way too much. When he was hot and taking good shots, he was capable of scoring 30 in a night. Too often, though, he would toss up ill-advised jumpers that would clank harmlessly off the rim and into the hands of the opposition. It almost cost the Wizards the series against the Bulls.

Losing Hughes should mean that Gilbert Arenas doesn't have to worry about his backcourt partner going Keyshawn on him ("Give me the damn ball!"), and that will allow him to find Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, both high-percentage shooters, under the basket more often. As much as I dislike Kwame Brown for his whining and the comments he made after he left, he did submit a legitimate gripe about the team's unwillingness to get the ball to the post.

Eddie Jordan has been working more with the team on defense, hoping that they can avoid the 110-105 contests that were all-too-common last season. A big key to that will be Haywood, who is amazing on the offensive glass but never seems to be in the right place to collect the boards on defense. A healthy Etan Thomas should help that effort as well, as will new addition Calvin Booth at center.

Also, this team is deep. Thomas will likely come off the bench, as will newly-acquired guard Chucky Atkins, center Calvin Booth, guard/forward Jarvis Hayes, forward Jared Jeffries, and center/forward Michael Ruffin. That should take the pressure off the starting five, as last year's bench was hit-or-miss when called upon.

The strengths are clear. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison are all-star caliber players. There is enough depth to keep everyone well-rested at all times (plus they've got fouls to give with Michael Ruffin and Calvin Booth).

The weaknesses are also obvious. They give up points in bunches. They're not aggressive enough on the defensive glass.

However, what I think was overlooked by most of the experts is that this team should be much-improved on defense. I still don't believe the "Larry Hughes, defensive juggernaut" hype, and I think Antonio Daniels more than makes up for his presence on D. If the offense lost anything from his and Kwame's departure, it is more than made up for by the newfound depth that should allow the team to stay in games even when the starters are getting a breather. Chucky Atkins should provide more consistency than Juan Dixon or Steve Blake ever did. I just don't see this team missing the playoffs.

That being said, it all starts tonight at 7.

Here's a quick primer:

2004-2005 Record: 45-37

Projected Starters: G - Gilbert Arenas, G - Antonio Daniels, F - Antawn Jamison, F - Caron Butler, C - Brendan Haywood.

Key Reserves: G - Chucky Atkins, C - Etan Thomas, C/F - Michael Ruffin, G/F - Jarvis Hayes, F - Jared Jeffries, C - Calvin Booth

Circle The Dates:
11/15 @ Cleveland (Larry Hughes)
11/30 vs. Portland (Juan Dixon, Steve Blake)
12/10 vs. Chicago
12/11 @ Miami
12/16 @ LA Lakers (Kwame Brown)
12/26 vs. LA Lakers
12/30 vs. Miami
2/10 vs. Cleveland
2/24 @ Cleveland
3/8 @ Miami
4/1 @ San Antonio
4/16 vs. Cleveland

MLB Fun: Free agents, free agents, free agents!!!

So the period when players file for free agency is in full swing, and that means it's time for early off-season speculations. On the Nationals side, they don't have an owner and their GM is only on the books until spring training. I'm not particularly sure how they plan to compete in the free agent market, so guess what, I'm ignoring them! HA! (Hopefully I'll be back with a more full analysis of their needs later.)

Anyways, Peter Angelos, the man who you should call if you've been exposed to asbestos, has vowed to spend, spend, spend this off-season. In interviews he seemed almost cocky in his prediction that the fans would be back, saying that the team was ready to spend what it takes to be competitive in the American League East.

Well, there are a couple of problems. First, you have to actually convince people to play in Baltimore for this maligned franchise! For pitchers, you've got the best lure in baseball, Leo Mazzone. So maybe that won't be such a problem. But for the hitters, you may have to overpay a couple of guys.

(Why am I writing like Peter Angelos is reading this?)

Anyways, the O's lineup right now looks something like this:

C - Javy Lopez
1B -
2B - Brian Roberts
3B - Melvin Mora
SS - Miguel Tejada
LF -
CF -
RF - Jay Gibbons
DH -

SP -
SP - Erik Bedard
SP - Bruce Chen
SP - Daniel Cabrera
SP - Rodrigo Lopez

Clearly, there are holes.

If the O's go after two starting pitchers, they could throw Rodrigo Lopez into the bullpen. If I'm the GM, I'm going a different direction, based on what's available on the free agent market.

(Check out who has filed so far at The Baltimore Sun Web site.)

I know some O's fans will think I'm crazy for this, but I say move Jay Gibbons to first base and go after three new outfielders. The first base market is weak, and face it, we ain't getting Konerko. Besides, I wouldn't want to pay the ridiculous price he's going to retrieve. O's fans aren't going to like this either, but if I'm dishing out the cash, I'm not paying off a closer. It's the most overvalued position in baseball, and if the O's lose B.J. Ryan, they can replace him with Chris Ray or Aaron Rakers and either would likely do an adequate job.

In the outfield, my picks are Jacque Jones (probably in the $5 million a year range) at CF, Brian Giles (probably in the $9 million a year range) at RF, and Reggie Sanders or Matt Lawton (probably in the $4 to $5 million a year range) at LF. Now, there is a good possibility that Lawton will get another inflated contract, but if he can be had for a couple of years at around $5 million per, he's a legit number two hitter (haha ... number two hitter) with some speed. I'd prefer to go after Sanders with a one-year deal, because his power numbers are better.

To fill the DH hole, I go after Olmedo Saenz (made less than $1 million last year, no way he gets more than $1.5 million next year.)

For pitchers, I would like to see Kevin Millwood in an O's uniform even though he seems to have a pattern of only being good on contract years. He had success with Mazzone in the past, and I think they could replicate that. I would not be averse to having A.J. Burnett, because I think Mazzone could do wonders with him, but if I am picking one or the other, I'll take the one with the track record of success with the new pitching coach.

That leaves a lineup that looks something like this:

1. Brian Roberts - 1B
2. Melvin Mora - 3B
3. Brian Giles - RF
4. Miguel Tejada - SS
5. Reggie Sanders - LF
6. Jay Gibbons - 1B
7. Javy Lopez - C
8. Olmedo Saenz - DH
9. Jacque Jones - CF

With a rotation of:

1. Kevin Millwood
2. Eric Bedard
3. Bruce Chen
4. Rodrigo Lopez
5. Daniel Cabrera

The problem with that lineup is that Jacque Jones can't hit lefties, but they could platoon him with Eric Byrnes, who is very good against lefties.

That's around $30 million for five players and a vastly improved lineup.